With rival Bentley moving ahead with its plans for an SUV, all eyes are on Rolls-Royce to see if the British carmaker will follow with one of its own.
Rolls has been mum on SUV plans for the past few months, but Richard Carter – head of global communications for the carmaker – told Digital Trends Automotive Editor Nick Jaynes that the project is ongoing.
The main problem so far has been styling, Carter said. The company has rejected numerous design proposals. This is symptomatic of a larger conflict: Rolls’ customers apparently want an SUV, but Rolls itself isn’t enthusiastic making one. “Rolls-Royce cannot make a ‘truck,'” Carter said.
However, while an off-roading Roller may not make much sense to those familiar with the brand’s current models, but it does make economic sense.
An SUV would likely do well in developing markets like China, India, or Russia, where there are plenty of newly-rich car buyers, but fewer pristine roads. Meanwhile, as the economy continues to improve, Americans’ appetite for SUVs is growing again.
Rolls will also be able to charge more for an SUV than a comparable sedan. Carter said Rolls would only build an SUV to increase profits, not sales. Bentley, on the other hand, is chasing larger volumes with its SUV, due in 2017.
If it does make it to production, the Rolls SUV will at least have aristocratic genes.
While parent company BMW is developing its X7 full-size SUV, Rolls plans to use a bespoke spaceframe chassis for its vehicle, along the lines of what it uses in the Phantom sedan, coupe, and convertible.
To make its SUV appear at least somewhat responsible. Bentley is planning a plug-in hybrid powertrain. Rolls has investigated this tech as well, but like the SUV itself, it hasn’t made any commitments.
Even if Rolls can nail down details like the powertrain and styling, its SUV may not appear for awhile. The carmaker already has a new model planned for 2016, so the SUV could be pushed back until after that date.